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Where Are The Birds You’ve Watched All Summer?
Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2015 by eNature
Osprey with fish
Osprey with fish
Osprey nest on navigation marker
Osprey nest on navigation marker
Common tern
Common tern

It’s happening— nests are empty and our spring and summer birds are moving on.

This has been very noticeable here on the upper Chesapeake Bay the past few weeks.

The young osprey whose nests seem to dominate the waters have are all fledged and starting to hunt on their own. 

We’ve spent the past two months enjoying the antics of young birds standing on the edge of their nests contemplating their first flight, which is a big deal if your nest is over water. 

As the saying goes, failure is not an option!. But almost every fledging osprey seems to fly successfully.

An Exhibitionist Bird
Ospreys (and Bald Eagles as well) prefer to nest in bare trees near the water’s edge so that they can be close to their fishing grounds as well as have some protection from other predators.  As waterfront land has been developed and dead trees removed, and populations have rebounded in the wake of the ban on DDT, osprey have found that buoys and platforms for navigation lights are perhaps even better nesting sites than dead trees. 

You can’t travel a stretch of water on the Chesapeake without seeing a navigation light that has an osprey nest on it.  It also means that anyone on a boat has great a seat for observing osprey behaviour, so we’ve enjoyed watching our local osprey build their nests (often reoccupying a previously used one),  fishing the local waters and raising their young.  And this is a noisy process, as osprey vocalize extensively— and loudly.

But all that has suddenly ended over the past few weeks.  All our osprey nests are empty and the birds are dispersing rapidly, preparing to head south.  Most will linger in the area another 3-4 weeks and then begin heading south in earnest, spending the winter in Central and South America, returning in March to start the cycle over.

Another Harbinger Arrives
At the same time, our annual late-summer influx of Common Terns has begun. These graceful birds spend the spring and summer in higher latitudes,and when they show up on the Bay in the early part of August, even though summer’s heat is still with us, it’s another sign that season is winding down.

Like our osprey, our terns fly over the local fishing grounds, but instead of crashing into the water with a loud splash, they daintily dive and pluck their prey from the water’s surface.  Their graceful flying and melodic calls are a pleasure to observe, even as they remind us that fall is not far away.

And they too will soon be gone, heading south to the coasts of Central and South America.

It’s the same in our woods and fields— and probably most noticeable in the morning.  In contrast to just a few weeks ago, almost no one is calling or singing as the sun comes up.

Hard as may seem to believe, fall is in the air and our birds are on the move.  If you observe closely, you’ll note many of the birds you’ve been watching the past few months are gone, replaced by other species migrating through.


Have you noticed changes in your local birds?  Is fall in the air?

We always love to hear your stories

Learn more about Osprey and hear their distinctive call »

Learn more about Common Terns and hear their melodic vocalization »

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